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Bills targeting absentee ballot processing move to Senate floor

absentee ballot
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

2020 is the first presidential election year Michigan voters will have access to no-reason absentee voting, and election clerks are expecting a surge in absentee ballots. A set of bills passed out of the state Senate Elections Committee Thursday will allow clerks to remove ballots from the mailing envelope, but not the secrecy sleeve the day before the election.

Current law allows clerks to begin opening the envelopes on election morning.

The number of absentee ballots requested by Michigan voters has risen by 63 percent in advance of the March Presidential Primary according to the Michigan Secretary of State.

Former Secretary of State and current Senator Ruth Johnson said, her bills will help save time.

“Well just think, how many seconds do you think it will take to open that envelope? And then, pull it out of it, and then be able to take the perf off with the number on it so that it can be accounted for? I think it will have substantial savings that will really make a difference,” said Johnson.

The bills would also allow absentee ballot counters and election inspectors to work in shifts.

Critics, including Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson say the bills don’t go far enough.

“But of course, the legislation as it currently stands is partial processing. It’s not full processing, so it’s not going to fully address the issue. And that’s unfortunate,” said Benson.

She added, she’s hopeful amendments that would allow more comprehensive processing will be made to the legislation in the State House of representatives.

Johnson, the sponsor of the bills, said she’s hopeful this will be passed in both chambers before the Presidential election

“As soon as we can get it in place, it’ll be great. The shorter time it takes—the better. And, if we could get it in before November I would be pleased.”

The bills now go to the Senate for a floor vote before going to the House.

Abigail Censky is the Politics & Government reporter at WKAR. She started in December 2018.
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